For four years, I was Editor of an Australian quilt magazine. A few years after I left, the business was sold and the magazine subsequently shutdown. Until then, the magazine showcased a wide range of stories about the Australian patchwork and quilting community. I was proud of the hard work I put into nearly 50 issues of that magazine and it enriched my life in many ways.
Let me tell you a story about an annual competition we organised, where readers were invited to make small quilts to donate to a Blankets of Love program. These were then distributed to families of stillborn babies. Hundreds of quilts were donated each year and most arrived on my desk with a hand-written letter.
Some of the stories were so powerful.
Initially, many of them made me teary – indeed, some made me sob – not just because they were sad but because they were all stories of love.
There were many letters from women whose children had been stillborn as long as 30 years before. All these women said they would have loved to have been given a Blanket of Love as a tangible aid to keep their child’s memory alive. For them, losing a child was so painful and shocking, and this ache never left them. The act of making a small quilt for another family helped them work through their own feelings of grief. Even though they all had emotional memories of their loss, they would have loved to have something tactile to remind them of their child.
One woman lost her first child only a few months prior and her pain was still raw but she made a Blanket of Love. She said it helped her grieve her own baby and she thought her quilt may help someone else realise she was not alone. Her mother-in-law made one too; they worked together and it helped them talk about a sad and difficult time. I was awed by their strength.
Many others contributed and said they were lucky to have healthy children but they wanted to show they cared. They wanted to help, and this was the only way they thought they could.
Why am I telling you this story now?
I briefly shared this story at a memoir writing workshop I took last month. There were gasps from some of the other participants, as well as a few teary eyes. It reinforced my belief in the power of storytelling.
This memory of mine had been prompted by something said by another person in the workshop. I can’t remember what that was but my memory came forward urgently and fully formed – it demanded to be shared.
This is why I am learning about memory and memoir: to tell more stories. I hope you’ll be open to reading them.